We’ve all dreamed of finding that perfect one-owner project car, and Sydney’s Ray Elia wound up with one of these elusive gems – not through years of hunting, but straight from his Chrysler-mad old man, John! “My dad bought it new; I drove it when I was on my L- and P-plates,” Ray grins. “I bought it off Dad when I was 16 years old – 27 years ago. I met my girlfriend, who’s my wife now, in the car as well.” By the way, don’t get him confused with Ray Elia of blown VN fame (SM, Dec ’22) – that’d be his namesake and cousin!
First published in the August 2023 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Ben Hosking
“I was 22 when I stripped the car,” Ray continues. “It’s just been a slow build ever since; obviously with starting a business and starting a family, it went on the back-burner.”
Ray’s first iteration of CRNKY1 hit the blacktop back in 2014, having been doused in custom-mix PPG metallic silver by Keven at Grange Smash Repairs to replace the original black-vinyl-on-white combo. “It was a really good base,” Ray says. “I was actually going to paint it in [Mopar] Vitamin C or Dukes of Hazzard orange, or maybe even a purple, but I reckon the silver came up all right with the chrome!” The wraparound stripe kit from Angel Signs isn’t directly based on a particular design, though similar treatments feature all over American Mopar hotties of the era.
“The paint and body are 10 years old now and still in bloody awesome nick, but the rest of the stuff got changed in the past couple of years,” Ray says. Aside from the generous bonnet relief and smoothed rear filler panel seams, the exterior metalwork is basically as-stock, down to the VH 770 front end often associated with Chargers.
To power the car, Brett McNiff at St Marys Engines bolted together a stout, 543-cube big-block Chrysler. Built on a 440 block, it runs a forged rotating assembly topped with Edelbrock Victor heads and Comp valve gear. In its original form, it wore twin carbs and a tunnel ram. “I was hardly driving the car, and the carbies would start fouling up and leaking fuel and all that shit,” Ray says. “I’d always wanted a blower anyway, so I went with the 10/71.”
The whole shebang came from Joe Blo Speed Shop, from the blower and low-profile hat to the injector rails, linkages, cables and belt guards. “Joe, I reckon, has one of the best set-ups – if I need something urgently, he’ll express post it to me,” Ray enthuses. “It was never a problem for him.”
A Haltech Elite 2500 and flex-fuel sensor manage the flow of E85 or 98 from a Holley VR2 brushless pump. “I don’t need a separate tank or to empty the tank, which is pretty cool,” Ray says. “I put the fuel in and drive off – it’s mad!”
As for how much power the big mill makes, Ray’s first answer is a simple “plenty”. When quizzed further, he reveals the big-block made 728rwhp and about 1000lb-ft of torque at 5300rpm on the CV Performance hub dyno. “It’s only running around 4psi at the moment, so it’s not even working,” he laughs. “By the time we wind her up and get to 12 or 15psi, she’ll make an easy 1300 or 1500hp.”
Behind the fat-block is a reverse-pattern 727 Torqueflite by Coan Racing, packing an aluminium drum and billet input shaft and hooked to a Continental 5000rpm converter.
The back end is a nine-inch with 35-spline axles, Truetrac centre and 4.11:1 gears, which sits in a four-link running Strange coil-overs, all from Brett at Wicked Industries. Brett also squared off the tubs to the rails, allowing Ray to bolt up the steamroller 20×15-inch Simmons rims. “Sam from Tempe Tyres did them for me – he said he had to weld two centre sections together to get them wide enough,” Ray says. “It’d be close, but I’ve got enough room to get an 18 in the back!”
Up front, you’ll still find torsion bars, now sharing space with Koni shocks and big six-pot Brembos, while an E-series Falcon rack-and-pinion and 2018 Mini electric pump make shifting the front wheels a breeze despite the hefty mill.
“I was going to go black, but I said, ‘Let’s spice it up,’” says Ray of the red leather-packed interior. Steve at Alltrim handled the reworked XR6 front and rear seats, custom flat headliner, carpet, door trims and leather-wrapped dash pad, rounded out with body-coloured accents to tie everything together.
The Regal debuted at this year’s Chryslers on the Murray, which doubled as its shakedown run. “We finished it two days before the show and tilt-trayed it down,” Ray says. “The shifter cable melted onto the extractors, so we had a little teething issue there, but it steered and braked and didn’t overheat, and it was bloody hot there!”
With the car’s monster torque numbers, Ray’s looking forward to planting his foot at Sydney Dragway before cranking the boost. “It’s actually violent, to be honest with you. I’m looking forward to some slicks and hooking up to see what she can do.
“With all respect to the turbo boys, if they were that good, the Top Fuellers would all be turbo cars. But they’re not – they’re blown Hemis!”
As much as Ray loves the lazy tyre-frying action of the big-cube Mopar and 10/71, he admits it’s probably more suited to track work than street duties. For that reason, he’s thinking of something different for his next big build. “Maybe a twin-turbo Viper V10, like a restomod with a TKO manual and massive brakes,” he says. “There’s a lot of people going with the Toretto look, and I’m kind of getting over it. With a turbo car, you can control the boost more, whereas on a blown car, it’s all instant power.”
1972 VH VALIANT REGAL
Colour: PPG custom silver
|Type:||Chrysler 543ci big-block|
|Induction:||Joe Blo manifold and injector hat|
|ECU:||Haltech Elite 2500|
|Crank:||Mopar forged 4340|
|Fuel system:||Holley VR2 pump|
|Cooling:||Custom four-core radiator, twin thermo fans|
|Exhaust:||Custom 2.5in primary extractors, twin 3in system|
|Gearbox:||Coan Racing Torqueflite|
|Diff:||9in, Truetrac, 35-spline billet axles|
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES|
|Front:||Koni springs and shocks|
|Rear:||Four-link, Strange coil-overs|
|Brakes:||Wilwood discs and six-piston calipers (f), Wilwood discs and four-piston calipers (r)|
|WHEELS & TYRES|
|Rims:||Simmons FR; 20×8 (f), 20×15 (r)|
|Rubber:||Nankang 245/45R20 (f), Mickey Thompson 29×15.00R20 (r)|
My wife Samantha (Minister of War & Finance) and my two girls Faith and Olivia; Brett at St Marys Engines; Joe Schembri at Joe Blo Speed Shop; Keven at Grange Smash Repairs; Angel Signs; Pierre Touma at iTilT Towing; Con and Vic at CV Performance; Jack at Earl’s Performance Plumbing; Mark Sant at Ontrak Auto Electrical; Sam at Tempe Tyres; Billy Tsimingos at Final Stage Enhancements; Fernando at Mainalign; Brett at Wicked Industries; Bruce at Charlestone Exhaust; Alan the Valiant specialist; Joe Molluso; Chubby at Lowe Fabrications; my dad John Elia for putting me onto the love of Mopars.